WITH 47 deaths and over 10,000 recorded cases of the novel coronavirus here, of which close to 1100 are active cases, the recent robust crackdown on persons and businesses in breach of the national COVID-19 guidelines is commendable and could not be timelier.
However, while it shows that the authorities are serious in ensuring public safety, it would have been good if the current approach by the Joint Services was adopted much earlier in the fight against the virus. This is not to say that the Joint Services was in idle mode earlier. Any such thoughts would be far from the truth as members of the Joint Services have been very actively spreading awareness of COVID-19 and sharing out masks, among other activities in the various regions.
No doubt their messages of safety have registered with some but it is strongly doubtful it registered with many others, even though their messages of awareness have been constantly repeated in face-to-face outreaches, in addition to similar messages on the radio, television and in the newspapers.
This is evident with some businesses in the recreation industry which have been tolerating gatherings at their establishments in contravention of the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) guidelines.
Some patrons at these establishments seem to unreservedly convey the impression that COVID-19 does not exist, notwithstanding high number of reported cases daily as well as the consistent reports on deaths. Sometimes, because of cultural habits of people, it is difficult to get them to understand simple messages even when those messages are for their personal health, safety and well-being. It is against this backdrop that the efforts by the Joint Services over the weekend which led to the arrest scores of persons in breach of the NCFU guidelines could not be timelier and should not let up. Businesses aside, their work has also focused on the ordinary folks. It was not the best of sights on Easter Day which is celebrated with much festivities but the work of the Joint Services was praiseworthy in keeping wide open public spaces free from picnics, fetes and other activities which, over the years, have traditionally generated mass gatherings.
And in cases where mass gatherings were found, persons were arrested and are expected to be placed before the court. This posture by the Joint Services should not only continue but intensify if Guyana is to bring down the number of deaths due to COVID-19 as well as the number of cases that are diagnosed daily.
It would meaningfully compliment the significant work of the government which has done all it could, from facilitating online learning, distribution of masks and hand sanitisers, to the rolling out of a countywide vaccination programme, to keep the novel coronavirus as bay.
Strick enforcement of the COVID-19 guidelines would not make Guyana an oddity compared to nations the world over. Today, many countries, especially the European nation are also taking a more serious approach to the virus, aside from vaccinating their citizens.
France has entered its third lockdown and schools are closed; Italy had a total lockdown during Easter; in Demark, the government has proposed the introduction of a ‘corona pass’ for everyone over age 15 to show that they have been vaccinated and their COVID-19 status; Greece is opening tourism in mid-May; the Czech Republic is tightening up their lockdown; and Spain has not let up on its curfew and other measures to minimise or prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In India, the state of Maharashtra is expected to go into lockdown if there is no fall in the number of COVID-19 cases being diagnosed daily.
Guyana, therefore, would not be alone if it continues to ensure strict enforcement of its national guidelines to protect it citizens from the pandemic; it is necessary to protect its most valuable asset— its people — as well as save money with regards to dealing with long-term heath complications and social issues as a result of the virus.